Top 10 List | The Top Lung Cancer Symptoms
Since there is no widely recognized method of early lung cancer detection, unlike PSA for prostate cancer or mammography for breast cancer, 85% of lung cancer is found symptomatically.
Unfortunately, by the time symptoms are apparent and properly diagnosed, the lung cancer tends to be in an advanced stage—that is one of the reasons why the 5 year survival rate is only 15%, with nearly half of newly diagnosed patients not surviving the first year.
Given the importance of detecting lung cancer early, let’s take a look at a list of the typical symptoms, as reported by MedicineWorld.org.
The symptoms of lung cancer depend upon the site and extent of involvement with the tumor. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are noted below:
#1 Persistent Cough
A persistent cough is an important symptom of lung cancer, but it is also difficult to distinguish a cough associated with lung cancer from a cough associated smoking or chronic lung conditions like COPD. If a patient who had chronic cough shows changes in the pattern of cough, the possibility of lung cancer should be considered—however, a cough in itself is not definitive.
#2 Shortness of breath
Again, shortness of breath associated with lung cancer is difficult to differentiate from the one that is associated with COPD. As mentioned above, a change in one’s pattern of respiratory difficulty should cause concern for the possible development of lung cancer, but it is also is not definitive.
#3 Productive Cough
A productive cough is when some type of secretions come up during coughing, which could be in the form of mucus or blood. If a productive cough—especially one with blood—occurs in a patient with a history of smoking, lung cancer should be suspected and an appropriate work up is to be done to confirm or exclude this possibility.
Many times lung cancer makes its initial presentation in the form of a newly developed pneumonia. The growing tumor may cause obstruction of the airways, and cause what is called "Post obstructive pneumonia." Patients who develop pneumonia may be advised to get repeat imaging to make sure that all the pneumonia is resolved completely and that no residual opacities are visible.
#5 Fluid in the lungs
Lung cancer may spread to the inner lining or outer covering of the lungs (known as plura), and this may result in the development of fluid accumulation between the lung and the chest wall (plural effusion). Development of plural effusion may result in increased shortness of breath.
#6 Chest pain or tightness in the chest
Lung cancer can infiltrate into the chest wall and may cause pain and/or tightness in the chest. Development of chest pain in a high-risk person should alert the physician to the possibility of lung cancer with chest wall invasion, or plural involvement.
#7 Bone and joint pain
Tumors in the apex (also called pancoast's tumors) of the lung may invade into the surrounding nervous structures causing pain in the shoulders or arms. Tumors in these areas are difficult to be seen on a chest X-ray, hence patients who has symptoms suggestive of pancost's tumors. Tumors infiltrating into the diaphragm may also produce shoulder pain.
#8 Change in the voice
Change in one’s voice pattern (usually hoarseness of voice) can be a symptom of lung cancer. This occurs more commonly with left sided tumors, and happens because of the pressure effect on one of the nerves that comes from the chest to the vocal cord, called the recurrent laryngeal nerve.
Wheezing can be caused by direct, partial obstruction of a large airway by a tumor. This can also result in shortness of breath. However, wheezing can also be caused by many lung conditions, including asthma, infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, foreign objects that are aspirated (breathed into) the lungs or tumors.
#10 Other symptoms
Lung cancer may cause other symptoms due to pressure effects. Pressure on the esophagus can lead to difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia). Pressure on the superior vena cava that returns blood from the upper part of the body to the heart can lead to a condition called superior vena cava syndrome, which is associated with redness and swelling of the upper part of the body. Tumors close to the heart can infiltrate into the outer covering of the heart called pericardium and may cause accumulation of fluid between the heart and the outer covering of heart (called pericardial effusion).
As this Top 10 list clearly shows, many of these symptoms are not only common for long term smokers, but are non-specific symptoms associated with many maladies.
Given the poor prognosis for most symptomatically detected lung cancer cases—in 50% of diagnosed cases, the patient does not survive the first year—the need for early detection is critical.
According to the NCI, if found early in Stage I or II the 5-year survival triples from 15% to 53%!
To learn more about Oncimmune’s EarlyCDT-Lung, the blood test to aid in the early detection of lung cancer, please visit www.HelloHaveYouHeard.com.
If you are a lung cancer survivor or if you have a loved one who battled lung cancer, visit our Lung Cancer Awareness Wall to memorialize and honor his or her personal fight against lung cancer.